Jugaad Vs Anti-Jugaad!!!

In the last 2 weeks, 2 TV ads for different products by 2 different agencies but surprisingly around the same theme of Jugaad caught my attention.  One is for Sulekha.com and the other for Exide Life Insurance. Jugaad is India’s contribution to management theory or so it appears. That the word ‘Jugaad’ has a Wikipedia page attributed to it means, it “has” arrived. And I think it had arrived a decade ago. When we started seeing this term being bandied about in management lecture circuits and HBR articles in the context of a Rising India. Yes the same time when BRICS broke into investment strategy discussions around the globe. For the uninitiated, Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi/Punjabi word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, used for solutions that bend rules. (Courtesy: Wikipedia). One of the very popular examples of Jugaad which has been trumpeted about is the use of old run down washing machines as giant Lassi makers in dhabas of Punjab😤

So what was new in Jugaad?? The concept of Jugaad I believe emanated from the Indian psyche of use first, then re-use, then repair and use and refuse (to throw i.e.). So when you have a problem in hand, as long as you can just do something and fix it and Chalaofy, its fine. These days for our kids, when their slipper snaps, Snapdeal delivers a new pair the next day. In our time, when a slipper gave way, a safety-pin first came to the rescue to pull along for few days. When that also failed, the cobbler under the nearby tree stretched the life of the slipper for few more days. So the immediate instinct was to do some Jugaad to get it going before we buy a new pair.

It was but natural that the word entered the workplace soon. At factories, warehouses, offices – if there was a problem the first attempt is to do some Jugaad and fix it. And in interviews – questions like “Are you a go getter?” gave way to “Are you a Jugaadu??”😜😜 A supposedly smart cookie who can think quickly and provide a cheap and quick fix for problems at work. So the underlying association for Jugaad was that the solution must be quick to implement, cheap and can be a short term compromise. Nobody expected a Jugaad to be a “perfect” solution.

Awesome-Shower-Jugaad

Now this runs antithesis to probably a Japanese way of thinking. In Japan, solutions are found after a lot of thinking (so not a quick fix), they need to be perfect (turn out to be expensive) and for the long-term.

So I guess the Jugaad instinct is all to do with the economic status of the country and its people. In countries like ours which is still aspiring to be a developed country, our priority is to have a fix. Not be a perfect fix. Need not be for long-term. But should be cheap and quick. While this approach has paved the way for eulogizing the concept of Jugaad as a means of “frugal innovation” in countries like India, it also has its shortcomings. As can be seen in our day today lives. For example in the way our municipality fixes potholes in roads. Just fill up quickly with metal and tar and level it only to do the same exercise again in a few months. A Jugaad solution can prove to be a long-term pain and an expensive proposition. In this context, I am uncomfortable with raising Jugaad to a global management technique and all that jazz.

Ergo, interestingly I notice that the same concept which till recently had a positive overtone is taking a negative innuendo. The liberalization and the Software boom have changed things and thinking. These days we deploy less Jugaad in our lives. And we it seems now need long-term, Quality solutions even if expensive. Now coming back to those 2 TV commercials. As can be seen in these 2 ads Jugaad has given way to Anti-Jugaad and the till now venerable Jugaadu is being loathed upon. In my last post “Writings on the walls” (Read here) I wrote about the aspirational India taking wings in the heartlands. I see this emergence of Anti-Jugaad as another instance of the emergence of Aspirational India where the expectations of people have morphed from being just satisfied to yearning for more.

So, are the days numbered for Jugaad in India? May be not. But the question is – As the country which popularised Jugaad is there a “Good Jugaad” which we can still retain and a “Bad Jugaad” which we will have to do away with?

Postscript: As I am typing this racing against the iPad’s battery life, is there a Jugaad for the iPad’s battery life??? Please call me😜😜

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17 thoughts on “Jugaad Vs Anti-Jugaad!!!

  1. Mukund S says:

    RSA – Nice & Informative post. There is a good book ‘8 steps to innovation’, which talks abt jugaad, innovation, excellence etc. Taking a cue from there, you may want to write another blog with title ‘Jugaad Vs Systematic Innovation’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jani says:

    Well said RSA.

    My take on jugaad,it is more on out of box thinking rather than getting lost on ‘analysis – paralysis mode’. Not all complex problems need more time to fix. ‘ sense and simplicity’ could also be jugaad which we as indians are good at since we focus on value for money at every instance. I realise in a few consulting assignments,we do much better we think more simplistically and we might wonder as to why Rest of world considers it to be quite complex.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Arunmozhi Balasubramania says:

    Once again a very relevant topic and timely. I also saw those ads and was wondering. In my childhood, my father used to call this jugaad as ‘chidambaraththan velai’ and despise the local plumbers and carpenters doing some quick fix and failing. Chalao, jugaad are the enemies of progress. Compromise is a huge negative impact on progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Abhie says:

    Anand, yes there is a jugaad for iPad battery 🔋 if it is draining too quickly, wrap the iPad in a air tight plastic bag and keep it in the freezer for a day. You will have a better battery life. Try it 😉
    Jugaad for me is simple, out of box solutions and not necessarily “innovation”. I feel its essential as it simply leads to fulfillment. I remember in hostel when out heater (ceramic + coil) for making tea broke, we took out the coil and rolled it around a bamboo stick to use it as immersion rod for heating water 😁. It worked and supported us in winters. I agree that some of the jugaads are not long term but some of these jugaads are leveraged for commercial use. Thanks for this article, it took me back into my past… I liked your slipper example.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Abhie says:

        Yes, this jugaad should work for any LI-ION battery. I tried it on my Canon camera battery and was glad to see it revived. :). Airtight wrapping is must if you are going to put the phone inside the freezer.

        Like

  5. Ramesh says:

    Hi Anand.. read your article with interest. I think Jugaad is a quick fix , not necessarily an appropriate fix. I find the Indian contract labour-skilled or semi skilled both have this attitude . Very few skilled craftsmen opt for the right approach. Of course, you pay for what you get. I think we need to have the attitude of Juggad- ingenuity in approaching problems and not accepting standard solutions but our outcomes of Jugaad should be sustainable solutions.

    Like

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